WASHINGTON—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to the White House and State Department releasing new documents obtained by a whistleblower showing political appointees targeting career civil servant employees they believed did not adequately support President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“We have obtained extremely disturbing new documents from a whistleblower indicating that high-level officials at the White House and State Department worked with a network of conservative activists to conduct a ‘cleaning’ of employees they believed were not sufficiently ‘supportive’ of President Trump’s agenda,” the Ranking Members wrote. “They appear to have targeted these staffers despite being fully aware that they were career civil service employees and despite the career employees expressing willingness to support the policy priorities of the Trump Administration.”
The documents include communications with a network of conservative outside parties—including former Speaker Newt Gingrich, conservative activist Barbara Ledeen, and former Dick Cheney and John Bolton advisor David Wurmser. In one email Mr. Gingrich forwarded to Trump appointees inside the State Department, Mr. Wurmser wrote:
“Newt: I think a cleaning is in order here. I hear Tillerson actually has been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind…”
The documents appear to show that Deputy Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel Sean Doocey, Deputy White House Counsel Makan Delrahim, National Security Council Senior Director Derek Harvey, and other senior White House officials were communicating about these matters with high-level political appointees at the State Department, including the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff.
The documents show that these political appointees characterized career State Department employees in derogatory terms, including as “a leaker and troublemaker”; “Turncoat”; “associated with previous policy”; and “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.”
“Over the past year, we have heard many reports of political attacks on career employees at the State Department, but we had not seen evidence of how extensive, blunt, and inappropriate these attacks were until now,” Cummings and Engel wrote.
The Ranking Members raised particular concern with documents relating to Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant who sought assistance from her supervisor, Brian Hook, the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, to “correct the record” after she was targeted by a conservative news outlet. Instead of helping Ms. Nowrouzzadeh, Hook forwarded her email to political officials at the Department, who then forwarded it to officials at the White House and used it as the basis for a wide-ranging internal discussion that questioned her loyalty to Trump.
In one email, Julia Haller, the White House Liaison, wrote to Doocey and others at the White House, “It is easy to get a detail suspended.” Ms. Nowrouzzadeh was removed from her detail to the Policy Planning Staff three months early in a manner she characterized as “not in accordance with that which was explicitly stated in my MOU [Memorandum of Understanding].”
In today’s letter, Cummings and Engel requested, by March 29, 2018, all documents regarding any reassignment or proposed reassignment of career or civil service employees at the Department, including any based on alleged personal political beliefs and prior service with previous Administrations and those involving top White House and State Department officials referenced in these documents. They also requested transcribed interviews with these senior officials.
Click here to read today’s letter.
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